With the Marijuana Bill recently passed in the Senate, the issue has taken center stage in the domain of public opinion. For the opposition, the United Democratic Party has joined the churches in calling for a referendum on the marijuana and hemp industry. The idea has been thrown out to have the referendum to run simultaneously with the upcoming village council elections. In an interview with the UDP Chairman, Michael Peyrefitte, he made it a point to explain that their reasons behind wanting the referendum differ from that of the churches. The bottom line, however, is that a referendum is being demanded.
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman of the UDP: “We are agreeing with the churches in terms of one narrow issue. We agree with the church that you should have a referendum. That’s what the agreement is because if you talk about morality and right or wrong, we can say well, Mr. Church, how come you have an issue with marijuana but you’re not having an issue with alcohol or cigarettes or none of those things. So we are not saying that the reasons why we are agreeing to a referendum with the Church is the same reason why the church wants a referendum. The reasons may be different. Since you have people already going to the polls, it will be a good idea for that to be on the ballot, like they do in the states. You put different things on a ballot. But, there are no Village Councils for Belize City. There are no Village Councils for the different self governing, if you’d like, municipalities, but how difficult can it be? It’s a simple ballot saying yes or no. What makes a referendum costly, most of the times, is that if it is Government driven then there’s an education program that has to take place before you actually go to a referendum and I think some of that would still need to be done but I think it’s an important enough issue for us to do it. I mean, give the people a voice. It’s not everyday, other than elections, that people get to say what they want on an issue and I think an issue such as this for which many people are confused about certain aspects of it, those things need to be revealed so people can be educated on it and we can learn more and have a considered view and vote on the matter. Nothing settles issues better than elections and when it is so deeply divided then you take it to the people. The will of the people is always supreme for anything. So when you have a situation on which we are so deeply divided, let the people decide and those who are against it, if the nation wants it, they need to accept that and fall in line and; those who are for it, if the nation says no then you have to respect what the majority of the people say. It shouldn’t be difficult to do a referendum. It’s a simple thing so why not? By calling for a referendum, we believe that more education will have to be imparted to people and people would become more invested in knowing the intricacies of having such an industry in the country. That’s our reason. Our reason is for people to be more educated on the issue while the church’s reason, you will have to ask them that.”